Hearing board approves repair shop in Antrim Township

Tony Yates is anxious to start a motorcycle and small engine repair business at his Stonebridge Road home. He and his wife Christine received permission from the Antrim Township Zoning Hearing Board to operate as a customary home occupation. The intersection behind them is seen as unsafe by area residents, but the board determined that issue was beyond the scope of the variance request.

A request for a variance was granted after considerable discussion Nov. 12 by the Antrim Township Zoning Hearing Board. Tony and Christine Yates, 6570 Stonebridge Road, asked that they be allowed to operate a motorcycle and small engine repair business at the residence as a customary home occupation. The measure had been denied by the township.

Antrim zoning officer Sylvia House explained to hearing board members Rodney Zeger, Gary Eberly, Warren Eichelberger, Ronald Cordell, and alternate Anita Karp why the township had turned down Tony Yates. She said an engine repair business was not commonly practiced at home, unlike consultants, bookkeepers, beauticians and artists who had offices in their homes. A garage-based business would show outside evidence and could violate the ordinance forbidding noise, odor, vibrations or dust. It could also negatively affect the neighborhood and set a precedence.

Neighbor Dennis Rife testified that he did not object to the business as long as the area was safe for traffic. He cited the intersection of Stonebridge and Guitner roads, with limited sight distance and stop signs that were often run.

Christine Yates spoke on behalf of her husband, who was unable to attend. She asked for consideration because he was disabled with back problems since his service in the Marines. "As a business owner, he can work and rest when he needs to. That's why we contested the decision."

The couple paid $700 for the hearing.

Tony Yates' father Gary Yates added that Antrim's solicitor John Lisko had said a variance might be applicable because of the disability. Gary Yates believed the business would have minimal affect on neighbors and be inoffensive.

Rife wondered if a variance would run with the property. House said that was the general policy. Solicitor Eileen Finucane said a stipulation could be put on a variance that it would not, but hoped if the Yates sold, they would disclose the information to a buyer, who would not otherwise be aware of the clause.

Eichelberger supported Yates. "It's a shame a man can't open a small shop in his own backyard."

The matter of the intersection was of most concern. The driveway to the Yates property was near the corner. Christine Yates was not sure if it was Antrim Township or PennDOT that had not allowed them to move their entrance farther from the intersection when they purchased the site in 2006, but she knew it was located where it had been dictated. House believed it was PennDOT that would have made any ruling.

Zeger finally said, "His driveway is not the problem, it's the intersection."

Board members agreed if sight distance and traffic controls were unsafe, PennDOT had to remedy them. That was beyond the request of the Yates.

Eberly also questioned why noise was a factor in that section of the ordinance. If Antrim did not not have a noise ordinance, how could they enforce any noise level?

By a unanimous vote, the panel granted the request with conditions. The business could be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday with no more than one employee. The variance did not convey with a property sale. Any engine could not exceed 2000 cc. Tony Yates had to show proof from PennDOT that a driveway acceptable for a residence was also acceptable for a business.

The next morning the couple contacted their surveyor, hired when they bought a corner of the neighbor's land when the driveway placement was an issue. The surveyor said Antrim was the governing agency on that and had the paperwork on file. The Yates intended to follow up as it pertained to the variance stipulation.

Tony Yates, 45, said, "If it's not safe for us, they shouldn't have left the driveway there."

He missed the hearing because he was at the YTI Career Institute in York taking a motorcycle repair class. He intends to open his shop soon.